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The Song of Simeon - Luke 2 (Sunday after Christmas)

A service plan for the week after Christmas planned around the Song of Simeon. Simeon's story speaks of fidelity, expectation, and hope, but it also warns about the danger of ignoring the Messiah. Part of an Advent series focused on the tension between the message that "Christ has come" and "not all is yet accomplished."

The Songs of Advent

Theme of the Service

This worship service centers on Advent and Christmas. We have focused on five songs, and now we conclude with the Song of Simeon for the first Sunday after Christmas. The story of Simeon is filled with unrecognized drama that points to the entrance of God's Messiah, the welcome he does (or doesn't) receive, and the relationship of Jesus with the temple in Jerusalem. This story speaks of fidelity, expectation, and hope, but it also warns about the danger of ignoring the Messiah.


Prelude: "How Bright Appears the Morning Star" [see <href="#music" >music notes]
or: "Shine, Jesus, Shine "

The Call to Worship

*Song: "How Bright Appears the Morning Star" PH 69, PsH 357, RL 367, TH 515 [see <href="#music" >music notes]

*Our Opening Profession:
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
Those who lived in a land of deep darkness,
on them light has shined.
Let us celebrate the Light of the world,
for upon us has the Light shined. (from Isaiah 9 and 60, NRSV)

*God's Greeting and Congregational Amen!

*Song of Response: "Shine, Jesus, Shine" RN 247, SFL 239, SNC 128, TWC 721, WOV 651 [see <href="#music" >music notes]
or: "Come, Lord Jesus" SFL 138, SNC 103

The Children's Moment [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]


The Call to Confession

Our Prayer of Confession

The Assurance of God's Pardon

God's Guide for Grateful Living


*Song of Preparation: "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" PsH 329, RL 183, SFL 122, PH 2, TH 196, TWC 135, UMH 196[see <href="#music" >music notes]
or: "Of the Father's Love Begotten" PH 309, PsH 342, RL 190/191, RN 252, TH 162, TWC 145, UMH 184 [see<href="#music" >music notes]

The Prayer for Illumination

The Reading of Scripture: Luke 2:22-35
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: The Song of Simeon
The Songs of Advent 5
Text: Luke 2:29-32

Sung Response: "The Song of Simeon" SNC 292 or PsH 216 [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

The Prayer of Application


The Prayers of the People [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

We Bring Our Offerings:
Our offering of music: "Hail to the Lord's Anointed," Hopp [see <href="#music" >music notes]
or: "Once in Royal David's City"
Our gifts for.


*Song: "Once in Royal David's City" PH 49:4, PsH 346:4-5, RL 201:4-5, TH 225:4-5, TWC 161:4, WOV 643:3-4, UMH 250:4 [see<href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song: "Good Christian Friends, Rejoice" PH 28:2-3, PsH 355:2-3, RL 218:2-3, TH 207:2-3, TWC 157:2-3, UMH 224:2-3 [see<href="#liturgy" >liturgy and <href="#music" >music notes]

Postlude: "Good Christian Friends, Rejoice" [see <href="#music" >music notes]

* You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes:

It would be helpful to end this series of messages by reminding your listeners of the road you have traveled during Advent. We've explored four dimensions of the songs of Advent: the song of God's people, of Moses and Miriam, of the angels, and of Mary. Simeon easily seems to be one of the forgotten ones in the Christmas event. Christmas scenes have everybody, even the Magi. Yet Simeon, who was the first to publicly announce the identity of the Christ Child in Jerusalem, is often overlooked. Simeon stands out as a faithful one: for while many others had lost heart because they became impatient in waiting for the Messiah, Simeon remained spiritually alive while he waited.

The events that day in the temple create a drama. This Jerusalem temple had stood there for more than a thousand years as a testimony of God's covenant with Israel. It's where they came to meet God before the Holy of Holies. Imagine that you are a spectator there, and someone pointing out an old fellow over there, says, "He's just always here, and with that other woman, Anna! They know more about what goes on in this place than anyone. They participate in all the worship and sacrifices. They are here for every festival, but they always seem to be unsatisfied, always waiting for something more. You'll often hear them say, 'yes, but just wait.' "

And then as you watch, a young couple approaches with their child, just 40 days old now, and the mother proceeds through all the purification rites. And suddenly these two old people come alive! He sings, or chants, a song that has three themes:

  • The first theme is about his readiness to die (v.29). He has been waiting all his life to see the fulfillment of God's promises, and now that it has been accomplished, he's ready to go home.
  • The second theme (vv.30-31) identifies the child before him. He knew all the Old Testament promises God had given, and now in this child he sees salvation right before his very eyes.
  • The third theme (v.32) is both descriptive and prophetic. This Messiah will be a light for all God's people who live in a dark world. This child will not only be a light for God's people Israel but will also be a light "for revelation to the Gentiles." In those words he anticipates the reach of the ministry of Christ to the Gentiles.

The words of this short song are so fitting for the hope-filled child of God that John Calvin encouraged that they be sung at the conclusion of every worship liturgy.

Simeon hands the child back to his parents and speaks to them in what seems to be a personal sequel. These are hard words of ominous warning (see vv. 34-35). His ministry will be divisive; some will rise and some will fall; he will be spoken against, and many hearts will be exposed. Simeon turns to Mary, the baby's mother, and warns her that a "sword will pierce your own soul too" (v.35), words that are predictive of many painful experiences during the ministry, passion and death of her son. Anna quickly corroborates these words with her own song (vv. 36-38).

What happened in that dramatic encounter should have created an explosive moment in the temple that day. Everything in the temple-the songs, the sacrifices, the promises, the prophecies-pointed to the day when the glory of God would arrive in the person of the Messiah. When Simeon clearly identified this child as the Messiah, a total celebration should have been unleashed! But nothing happened. It was like one of those experiences that we all have from time to time in which our expectations of something are never met. Apparently, nothing happened here, and there was nothing left to do but go home (see v.39).

Perhaps that is a clue that points to the rest of the story which shows that Jesus' relationship with this temple was a tragic one. The next time we see him in the temple again he is twelve years old debating the religious leaders and exposing their spiritual ignorance. The only other times we see him there he is driving out the money-changers and arguing with the leaders about the propriety of healing on the Sabbath. Before long the leaders from this temple are the ones who hatch the plot to condemn him to death. Later those from the temple become the first persecutors of the followers of Christ, and by 70 A.D. this temple is destroyed. What a lesson! Ignoring Christ can quickly turn to rejecting him, which can lead to being rejected by Him. What a lesson for us and our churches as we reflect on the Christmas event!

Music Notes:
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Prelude suggestions and possible alternate harmonizations for the opening hymn can be found in the following resources:

WIE SCHÖN LEUCHTET ["How Bright Appears the Morning Star"]

Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 5. AMSI SP-102 [1985] (D)
Cherwien, David. Seasonal Interpretations Advent/Christmas. Summa Productions SP-110
[1997] (M)
Drischner, Max. Augsburg Organ Library - Epiphany. Augsburg 11-11073 [2001] (M)
Held, Wilbur. 6 Hymn Settings for Epiphany. Morningstar MSM-10-206 [1999] (E-M)
Hildebrand, Kevin. Easy Hymn Preludes for Organ, vol 3. Concordia 97-7052 [2004] (E)
Hobby, Robert A. Three Epiphany Preludes, set 3. Morningstar MSM-10-209 [2003] ( E-M)
Leupold, A. W. An Organ Book. Chantry Music Press [1960] (E-M)
Manz, Paul. (1987x-MSM) Augsburg Organ Library - Epiphany. Augsburg 11-11073 [2001] (M)
Manz, Paul. God of Grace. Morningstar MSM-10-599 [2004] (M)
Manz, Paul. How Lovely Shines the Morning Star. Concordia 97-5306 [1975] (with oboe; E)
Manz, Paul. Three For Epiphany. Morningstar MSM-10-203 [1992] (M)
Peeters, Flor. 30 Chorale Preludes. Peters 6023 [1950] (M)
Pelz, Walter L. O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright. Morningstar MSM-10-201 [1990] (M-D)
Sedio, Mark. (1996) Augsburg Organ Library - Epiphany. Augsburg 11-11073 [2001] (M)
Sedio, Mark. Eight Hymn Introductions. Morningstar MSM-10-836 [1991] (E-M)
Sedio, Mark. Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ. Augsburg 11-10718 [1996] (M)

Carter, John. Still More Carols for Piano. Hope 8175 [2002] (E-M)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. As Though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar MSM-10-555 [2001]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Cherwien, David. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

SHINE, JESUS, SHINE ["Shine, Jesus, Shine"]

Carter, John. Today's Hymns and Songs for Piano II. Hope 8206 [2004] ( E- M)
Elwell, Ellen Banks. Piano Praise. Hope 237 [1993] (E)
Hayes, Mark. Lord Be Glorified, vol. 2. Word 301 0063 318 [1992] (M)
Wilson, John F. This Is the Day. Hope 243 [1992] (E-M)

Bettcher, Peggy. Shine, Jesus, Shine. Agape 2069 [1999] (2-3 octaves, level 2)

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Albrecht, Mark. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

The suggestions for the response song following God's greeting have two very different flavors. "Shine, Jesus, Shine" carries with it the spirit of the opening profession; "Come, Lord Jesus" anticipates the spirit of the service of confession. Either could be appropriate.

Alternative harmonizations for the suggested hymn of preparation can be found in the following resources. Note how the language of "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" coincides with the Scripture reading.

STUTTGART ["Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]
Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]

DIVINUM MYSTERIUM ["Of the Father's Love Begotten"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ, vol. 2. CPH97-6851 [2000]
Johnson, David N. Free Harmonizations of Twelve Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9190 [1964]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Organ, Anne Krentz and Carlson, J. Burt. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

If you have a choir available to sing in this service, consider joining the congregation and choir in a hymn concertato during the offering. "Psalm 72: Hail to the Lord's Anointed" arranged by Roy Hopp for SATB voices, organ, brass quartet and congregation is published by Selah 241-072. The brass parts can be incorporated into the organ part where needed or omitted where the organist is plenty busy! This concertato can be found in a hymnal setting in PsH 72. The alternate suggestion for offertory music is based on the initial dismissal hymn.

IRBY ["Once in Royal David's City"]

Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 5. AMSI SP-102 [1985] (E-M)
Farlee, Robert Buckley. Augsburg Organ Library - Christmas. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-5935-X
[2001] (E-M)
Phipps, Karen Emmett. Organ Music for the Seasons, vol. 3. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-
7564-9 [2003] (M)
Visser, Larry. Noels on Christmas Themes. Leupold WL600090 [1998] (M)
Wold, Wayne L. God with Us. Augsburg 11-10975 [1999] (E-M)

Carlson, J. Bert. Carols from Many Lands. Augsburg Fortress 11-11115 [2001] ( E-M)

Page, Anna Laura. Once in Royal David's City. Brentwood OTH-1054 [1986] (3 octaves with
organ and C instrument, E-M)

Alternative harmonizations and postlude suggestions based on the closing hymn are as follows:

IN DULCI JUBILO ["Good Christian Friends, Rejoice"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. Easy Hymn Settings Christmas. Morningstar MSM-10-115 [1992]
Busarow, Donald. Thirty More Accompaniments for Hymns in Canon. Augsburg 11-10163
Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ, vol. 2. CPH97-6851 [2000]
Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]
Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]

Bach, J. S. Music for a Celebration, set 4. Morningstar MSM-10-579 [2005] (M)
Bach, J. S. The Liturgical Year (ed. Riemenschneider) Ditson [1933] (M-D)
Bach, J. S. Three Preludes on In Dulci Jubilo. Peters 356 [1953] (E-D)
Bach, J. S. Twelve Chorale Preludes (ed. Glynn) Schirmer 1441 (M)
Behnke, John. A. Five Familiar Carols for Christmas. Hope 1749 [1994] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Seasonal Interpretations. Advent/Christmas Summa Productions SP-110
[1997] (E-M)
Dello Joio, Norman. (1975 - Marks) Augsburg Organ Library - Christmas. Augsburg ISBN
0-8006-935-X [2001] (M)
Dupré, Marcel. (1932 - H W Grey) Augsburg Organ Library - Christmas. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-5935-X [2001] (M)
Haan, Raymond H. Partita on In Dulci Jubilo. Concordia 97-5405 [1977] (E-M)
Leavitt, John. Christmas Suite. Augsburg 11-10857 [1998] (M)

Gerig, Reginald. Piano Preludes on Hymns and Chorales. Hope 251 [1959] (D)

Liturgy Notes:

1. We encourage you to plan your introductory and transitional words in this service very carefully so that the spirit of Advent and Christmas will continue into this Sunday and service. Too quickly many of us put it all away!

2. We present two suggestions for a Children's Message that will be appropriate for this Sunday. You could speak about the danger of "putting Christmas away" like we put decorations away and encourage them to love Jesus all year long. Or you can anticipate the message on the Song of Simeon which shows the danger of ignoring Jesus. Anticipate the application of the sermon and "wonder" with the children, "I wonder if any of us might be guilty of having Jesus right in front of us and ignoring him. I wonder how Jesus might feel about that."

3. We are suggesting that the sermon conclude with the singing of the Song of Simeon. If your congregation is not familiar with it, or one of its versions, perhaps a worship team, choir, or a soloist can lead the congregation or teach it to them before they sing it. An explanation that we express Simeon's faith when we take his song on our lips will increase the meaning of this proclamation.

4. As you plan the Prayers of the People for this service, be sensitive to the needs of our culture. We are surrounded by a society which tries so hard to celebrate a "Christmas" yet desires to "return to normal" as soon as possible. We ought not to try to "preach" in the prayer, but we certainly ought to pray for an outpouring of God's Spirit so that we'll not fall into that trap. Make this prayer a strong intercession for our world.

5. Notice how the verses for the closing two songs have been carefully selected so that we move on from standing by the manger and look toward seeing the full implications of the Lordship of this Messiah and our hope of his return. A brief introduction of the songs, alerting worshipers to this, might be very helpful.